Over the years, Nigeria has experienced numerous industrial actions either in the form of warning strike or indefinite withdrawal of labour. The reasons behind these strikes vary from clamour for better staff welfare to infrastructural improvement and this result to the call for a withdrawal of labour by the usual culprit, Academic Staffs Union of Universities (ASSU) and that of the Nigeria Labour congress (NLC).
In recent years, threats of an industrial action have become the only medium through which the labour unions get the attention of government due to its negative impact on the economy. Many scholars are bemused at the frequent rates in which these strikes take place as many believe that the government is to be blamed for it.
According to historic records, the first major labour strike in Nigeria was the Lagos strike which held in 1897, during the colonial era. This strike occurred as a result of the then governor, Henry McCallum who as a desire to increase the supply of labour, launched a reform where he introduced a reduction in the wages of workers. This clearly led to minimal unrest but didn’t deter the governor from introducing a stiffer reform. He altered the working hours of staffs and this was the final straw as employees declared a strike on the 9th August 1897 which involved nearly 3,000 workers.
The actions of the workers got the attention of the European colonial administrators and this led to Henry Compromising on his reforms. He was instructed to suspend the reduction of wages indefinitely as well as introduce launch break for workers. Since workers believed their demands had been met, they called off the strike and resumed back to their duties.
In 1941, Nigerians experienced a deteriorating standing of living and an increasing cost of living. This led to a demand for an increase in salaries in other to survive the harsh economy. This led to series of meetings between the government and representatives of the workers. On June 21st, 1945, after the failure of the Government to meet the demand for salary increase, workers of the Nigeria civil service declared an industrial action and came out in large numbers in a general protest of all Government departments.
Nigeria gained her independence in 1960 with the hope for a greater and self-sufficient future but while that hope lingers, Nigerians have had to fight, through strikes, for better standards of living and a reduction in the high cost of living. In May 1981 during the Shehu Shagari Administration, there was an industrial action which was channelled to challenge the governments Poor Management of the Economy and also request for an improved Minimum Wage.
Furthermore, during Ibrahim Babangida Regime, in May 1988, there was another protest against the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programme. In tackling the strikers, General Babangida dissolved all unions and structures. July 1994, January 2004, June 2007, January 2012, May 2016 and September 2018 have all become part of our history as days when Nigeria labour force went on industrial action against the federal government for demands on improved welfare and wages for workers.